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Decision day

AUSTRALIAN skipper Mark Taylor will know his fate sometime in the coming week when cricket officials sit down with him and Steve Waugh to discuss this business of two captains and two teams, a discussion that Taylor himself suggested should be held soon after he returned from India.

And it seems likely that, given the programme which the selectors have drafted for the summer, Taylor will only be offered the Test captaincy. Waugh has done well enough -- seven wins in 10 matches in India and Sharjah is good by any standards -- and he has also indicated that the experiment of two captains should be allowed to continue for at least a year before an evaluation is carried out.

Taylor's statements after his return amounted to an ultimatum: he wanted to captain both the Test and one-day teams as the two-captain strategy was upsetting the team. And at that point of time, he had some ammunition in his gun as Australia had been hammered by India in the Test series.

But now, the whole scenario has changed. Australia won the vital final against India and then only lost one match, to India, in Sharjah though they did not win the tournament. It was enough to make Waugh confident about issuing statements which, though nobody has commented on it, were diametrically the opposite of what Taylor had said.

The question is, what will Taylor do? He will definitely be offered the captaincy for the tour of Pakistan later this year and very likely for the home series against England which begins in November. Will he accept that his ultimatum has failed, bite the bullet and take what he can get? Or will he chose to call it a day, something which he hinted at on his return from India?

It all depends on what Taylor has managed to do between his return and next week's meeting. If he has thought out his options and has something lucrative in the bag or just around the corner, then it is very likely that he will decide to go out on a high note -- his last Test ended in a victory which he engineered, and his last Test innings was a hundred.

The odds, however, are on Taylor accepting the captaincy for the Pakistan trip -- and for the Ashes series too, if that is offered right away. He knows that there is no chance of him making the team for the World Cup in 1999 and may decide to take what he can get while it is on offer. All that can be said is that it is a sad position for a man like him to be in. But then many captains in international cricket have been in more difficult positions. Richie Richardson would know.